When TV stations can serve audiences anytime and anywhere, on the screen that is most convenient, they cement the role they play in informing and influencing viewers, especially millennials. This relevance also increases stations’ attractiveness to advertisers because they can deliver an audience throughout more of the day rather than in just a few time slots.
How To Make Stations The Must-See Medium
Think TV’s role in American life is waning fast? Think again. Despite the perception that most consumers now turn to their PC, smartphone or tablet when they want news, Nielsen’s Total Audience Report shows they spend far more time with TV. This trend is true from large cities to smaller towns, and underscores the point that we all deserve to have strong journalism that connects and informs our communities.
Nielsen’s study is part of a growing body of research highlighting the role that TV plays in American life — particularly local TV news. For example, a 2015 Pew Research Center study, “Local News in a Digital Age,” found that nearly 90% of Americans say they follow local news closely, and when they do, local TV stations are their No. 1 choice.
But to maintain their relevance and dominance, local TV stations must focus on additional data that identifies trends in viewing habits and preferences. For instance, Nielsen’s Audience Report series found that among adults 18 and older, the amount of smartphone usage increased from 1:04 per day in 2Q 2013 to 1:30 to 2Q 2015. During this period, their usage of DVRs and other time-shifting devices increased from 46 minutes daily to 49 minutes.
To leverage those trends, savvy station owners are investing in technologies that enable them to provide high-quality streaming video content such as local newscasts to smartphones, tablets and connected TV devices. Doing so provides stations with several major benefits.
For example, Nielsen’s research dispels the myth that TV viewership is low among the 18-34 demographic. It also shows — not surprisingly — that their usage of smartphones and tablets is high. By providing mobile apps that deliver live and on-demand video content such as local newscasts, TV stations ensure that they remain relevant to younger demographics. Their viewership is key not only for maintaining their market share as the rest of their audience ages, but also because local and national advertisers covet the 18-34 group. So for station owners, the business case for mobile apps is based partly on the ad revenue that comes with attracting and retaining younger demographics.
Another example is growing usage of connected TV devices and smart/connected TVs, all of which use apps to provide access to live and on-demand content. By offering apps for these devices, stations give viewers another way to watch their local newscasts. In addition to reflecting a growth market, this trend can actually be net positive to savvy programmers for both usage and monetization.
Apps for mobile devices, connected TVs and smart/connected TVs also enable stations to capitalize on trends in viewing habits and preferences. Unlike just a few years ago, most people now have the ability to choose the screen based on convenience and availability. Increasingly that screen isn’t on a traditional TV set connected to a cable set-top box or antenna. Instead, their screen of choice often is on a smartphone or tablet. As a result, a mobile app enables stations to provide live and on-demand content whenever and wherever their viewers want to watch: the commute to work, at work and on vacation, to name just a few places where they don’t have access to a traditional TV set.
Meanwhile, apps for connected TV devices and smart/connected TVs enable stations to serve people who prefer to watch on those devices. All of these apps also are key for accommodating viewers’ schedules, which often prevent them from being able to watch when their local newscast airs. By giving them the option of choosing on-demand streams, they can catch those newscasts at a time that’s convenient for them.
When stations can serve audiences anytime and anywhere, on the screen that is most convenient, they cement the role they play in informing and influencing viewers. This relevance also increases stations’ attractiveness to advertisers because they can deliver an audience throughout more of the day rather than in just a few time slots.
A variety of state and federal initiatives are encouraging telcos, cable operators, wireless carriers and other companies to expand wired and wireless broadband into rural areas. As a result, TV stations serving those markets will increasingly need streaming capabilities as much as their urban counterparts. For example, streaming is a way to reach people who live in areas where over-the-air (OTA) reception is poor, such as because of the digital TV transition, which reduced some stations’ coverage in their markets’ fringes and areas with hilly terrain.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect program is among the broadband initiatives that will help TV stations use streaming to serve people in places where OTA coverage is poor or unavailable. Granted, stations already serve some of those viewers via satellite, but satellite offers local newscasts only as a linear option rather than on demand, too. Streaming gives rural viewers the option of watching local newscasts when they want — and on their preferred device rather than only on a TV connected to a satellite box.
From the largest U.S. television market in New York City to the smallest in Glendive, Mont., many people care deeply about the news that affects their families, neighbors and communities. Therefore, as a general statement, no one market is more important than any other, no matter how many people live there. Yes, there are different numbers of people served and different financials, but the content generally matters equally to the person who cares about it. This has always been true.
TV stations now have the opportunity to sustain and increase relevance. They should continue to provide valuable public service by meeting their customers where they are, across these platforms, with the news on topics from weather to investigative reporting to local events and beyond.
Local TV’s best days are still ahead, but only for stations forward-looking enough to recognize trends in viewing habits and preferences. By offering high-quality streamed content, both live and on demand, for smartphones, tablets, connected TV devices and smart/connected TVs, stations are well positioned to attract and retain audiences — and the advertising revenue they bring.
Louis Gump is CEO of NewsON, a digital media company focused on local television news.